If there was any doubt that Lillard was the best player in the Blazers/Thunder series, it was irrevocably removed Tuesday night. Erased. A non question. For all the recognition Paul George and Russell Westbrook received by pundits and media, Damian Lillard stole the Thunder. He was the MVP, in the Blazers 118-115 game 5 win.
Portland eliminated the Thunder 4-1 to move on to the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2016 when they defeated the Clippers. This time there will be no qualms about injuries leading the way for Portland. Paul George’s shoulder can kiss it. George, Westbrook, Thunder…you got Damed.
Damian Lillard had his best game of the playoffs period. It was perhaps his best game as a Trail Blazer. He took over early after CJ McCollum was beset with three early fouls and sent to the bench. I’ll give the Thunder their due. They came out from the get go with everything they had. They built leads, led most of the first half. But, it wasn’t enough. Damian Lillard wasn’t going to have it. Not In his house.
Lillard went off for 50 points, capped by a 37 foot three pointer with 1.3 seconds left in regulation, over Paul George for the win. With that shot Lillard became the only player in playoff history to score 50 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, with 10 3 pointers made. There are now 5 games in NBA playoff history where a series was won on a last second shot. Lillard lays claim to two of those, the only player to have multiples.
Lillard had the help of McCollum and Harkless late who both finished with 17 points. Going into the fourth only Lillard and Kanter had double digits. Kanter was playing despite a separated shoulder, a thigh injury, and the residuals of his hand injury from game 2. He finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Seth Curry’s late game defense against Westbrook also deserves mention.
The Blazers were down 8 with just over three minutes left in the fourth, when Jusuf Nurkic appeared on the Blazers bench. It took a moment for the fans at the Moda Center to realize his presence, but when they did, the arena erupted and it never quieted the rest of the game. He was the X factor. The injured Blazers center was at home until the third quarter, when he decided to come to the game. His team needed him. He was there.
Paul George finished with 36 points. He was on all night. It was Westbrook who was their undoing with 35% shooting from the field to George’s 70%. Why Westbrook took their last shot instead of George is dumbfounding. It will however be blamed on “a bad shot” as George has dubbed Damian Lillard’s game winner.
So, let’s wave bye to the Thunder as Lillard did after the buzzer. As CJ did too. No more rocking the baby. No imitating Dame’s wrist slap. No more trash talk. Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers got the last word and they didn’t have to say a thing. They bested the Thunder who had beat them 4-0 in the regular season. Who seemingly every pundit was picking to win the series. Boy, how they were wrong. Goodbye Thunder, don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you!